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Physical Therapy for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

presented by Liliane Savard, PT, DPT, PCS

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Satisfactory completion requirements: All disciplines must complete learning assessments to be awarded credit, no minimum score required unless otherwise specified within the course.

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Providing physical therapy for children with autism can be particularly challenging given their unique social communication challenges and sensorimotor profiles. Individuals with autism have motor control challenges that make physical therapists uniquely positioned to contribute to the interdisciplinary team. In this course, we will discuss the clinical presentation of individuals with autism spectrum disorder. We will learn about motor development and motor challenges in autism. We will provide strategies to conduct a thorough physical therapy assessment and set realistic and meaningful intervention goals following the ICF model and a family centered approach. Finally, we will review evidence-based intervention strategies.

Meet Your Instructor

Liliane Savard, PT, DPT, PCS

Liliane Savard, PT, DPT, PCS is a pediatric physical therapist with 20 years of experience working with children and their families in a variety of settings. She has developed an expertise in working with children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. She is an alumnus of the VT-LEND program (autism specialty) and also completed a graduate certificate…

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Chapters & Learning Objectives

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1. Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorders

In this chapter, we will review the changes in diagnostic criteria to understand the different terms that are currently being used. We will discuss motor performance challenges related to the diagnosis criteria and historical descriptions of the condition including movement differences. It is important to establish common terminology and basic knowledge of the condition in order to be an effective partner on the inter-professional team serving these children.

2. Motor Skills Development in Autism

In this chapter, we will summarize current knowledge on motor performance in autism. We will look at prevalence of motor delays and development of foundational motor skills across the diagnosis. We will review motor control findings related to gait, balance, postural control, reach and release, and pointing. Motor difficulties in children with autism are often overlooked, however, significant difficulties in this area have the potential to impact other developmental processes and should be systematically addressed.

3. Assessment Following the ICF Model

In this chapter, we will focus on strategies to use in order to conduct a thorough assessment, set realistic goals and document improvement. While impairments at the body structure level maybe significant, a focus on repertoire of movements and participation in life roles will be emphasized. It is important to address children with autism and their family’s priorities and encourage life long active life style.

4. Lets play together!

In this chapter, we will learn how to use evidence-based strategies to positively interact with children with autism and their family and help them achieve their goals. We will explore physical therapy interventions through case examples.

5. Interprofessional Collaborative Practice (IPCP)

In this chapter, we will learn about the importance of interprofessional collaborative practice (IPCP). There are four core competencies to IPCP and all of them matter to support children and families with ASD to achieve their goals. We will explore examples of interventions where IPCP is especially important.

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